As reported here on Wednesday, Gov. Inslee is asking Washington manufacturers to turn their expertise and capabilities to items desperately needed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. We learned that one local company already has jumped in – Nucor Steel in West Seattle is making face shields with 3D printers – 20 so far, and gearing up to be able to make 100 a week. We spoke Wednesday afternoon with Nucor’s Patrick Jablonski, who has just sent photos and more information.
They are doing it with “both on-site and employee-owned additive manufacturing (3D printing) capability. Nucor Seattle engineers who specialize in additive manufacturing researched “needs, tested designs, and optimize Nucor-owned hardware in addition to their personal 3D printers at home. Currently, the effort is focused on producing National Institutes of Health-approved face shields for medical workers and frontline caregivers. Nucor is now printing holders for these face shields and has purchased plastic and straps under the guidelines issued by the NIH. Nucor is also researching and designing various forms of respirator components that can be fitted with household media such as coffee and vacuum filters.”
Once they came up with the idea, Jablonski told us, it only took about a week to formulate a plan. Now, they are working on optimizing production to 100 shields a week, and then might be able to increase the production rate.
The first 20 masks were donated to Providence Mount St. Vincent in West Seattle (which recently announced its first COVID-19 case). Jablonski says, “The Nucor Seattle team is continuing to reach out to local health care providers to learn about additional needs and design concepts.” Nucor also has donated extra PPE to local medical centers, including hundreds of N95 dust masks, and nitrile gloves.